[Salon] Why the music industry has nothing to celebrate

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From: Joachim Feise (jfeise@ics.uci.edu)
Date: Wed Jul 26 2000 - 23:22:25 PDT

The main problem with Napster the company, as Salon puts it,
is the central server.
Gnutella's distributed and ad-hoc nature makes it harder to
get to somebody to sue.
So goodbye Napster, hello Gnutella (and similar systems).



You already know what Napster the phenomenon is: A
program that helps Net users find and download music
files from one another's computers. In the short months
since its debut last fall, Napster has become both a
revolutionary banner for anti-establishment music
lovers and a lightning rod for media-corporation
paranoia over piracy and copyright infringement.

Napster the company is something different, more
prosaic: It's a venture capital-backed Silicon Valley
start-up with a lawyer at its helm. It hopes, somehow,
eventually, to make big money from Napster the
phenomenon. Those hopes look darker after today's

Here's the problem for the record labels and their trade
group, the RIAA: Napster the company is an institution
they could cut a deal with if they so desired. It's a legal
entity; it runs a relatively small group of servers that can
be shut down; it has incentives to reach a compromise
with the recording industry.

Napster the phenomenon is something else entirely. It's
not a corporation -- it's an idea. Napster Inc. could
disappear off the face of the Earth tomorrow and it
wouldn't matter. Think of what happened to Netscape;
the company lost its fight but the company's idea -- the
Web browser -- took over the Net. The idea of Napster
-- of "peer to peer" software that lets individual Internet
users trade music files (and other files) with one
another -- lives in millions of minds. And the Internet
itself gives those minds ample opportunity to keep the
idea going.

Already, projects like Gnutella and Freenet are
beginning to provide Napster-like functions with one
key difference: There's no central server, and thus no
one to sue. Napigator lets users find Napster servers
that aren't run by Napster Inc. Over at Opennap,
open-source programmers are developing free,
Napster-like software for every computing platform
under the sun. On the open Net, a thousand new
Napsters are blooming.

And what will be the impact of the court-ordered
shutdown of Napster? These projects -- small,
underground efforts that grew unnoticed in the shadow
of Napster the company -- will be flooded with energy.
Users will flock to them, and talented software hackers
will work overtime to perfect them.

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